By Yemisi Suleiman
Adesunmbo Adeoye is a multi-passionate entrepreneur and Convener of the annual Inspiring Change Conference, a platform where she deliberately impacts knowledge, inspires change and transforms the lives of men and women in business, with a focus on Nation building.
Founded with passion to educate and enrich the lives of future leaders, 10 years on, the Inspiring Change Conference has evolved to become one of the most inspiring women conferences in the country.
An Alumnus of Lagos Business School, Sunmbo began her educational pursuit with a diploma in Accountancy and Finance at Yaba College of Technology. Today, she is a certified Business Development Expert and also holds a certificate in Entrepreneurial Management from EDC Pan Atlantic University.
Sunmbo sits on the board of several companies and offer advisory services to SME from all industries. A mentor to many and recipient of numerous awards for her dedication and contribution towards progressive initiatives and humanity, in Nigeria.
As the 10th edition of the Inspiring Change Conference sets to hold this Saturday the 25th of March 2023, in Lagos, Mrs Adeoye speaks on the forthcoming conference about her days of humble beginnings, amongst other issues.
Inspiring Change Conference is 10 this year, how does it make you feel? And how has it been over the years?
I am very excited about this significant milestone. It is humbling to think about how it all started and how far we have come. Looking back at all the various ways the initiative has impacted the lives of women and girls in Nigeria and beyond, I am so happy to see the fruits of the 10-years of passionate dedication to the mission of educating the girl-child deliberately and the hard work of ensuring that the future is bright, equal and rewarding for every woman striving to lead in their various industries.
What events in your life led to the formation of your Inspiring Change foundation and Conference? How did it begin?
After over a decade of active service in the banking industry, I resigned to chase after my desires to serve in the events management industry. This industry was relatively new at that time but a friend saw my dedication to the job and introduced me to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 women initiative (A scholarship program sponsored by Goldman Sachs for African women to attend the Enterprise development Centre for business mentorship and training opportunities), I applied and was selected as one of the beneficiaries. After that experience, my mindset about entrepreneurship changed and my young business flourished.
In 2013, as a newly married Pastor’s wife, I received a phone call from the Enterprise Development Centre. I was just a fresh graduate from the Centre where I completed my CEM studies and was issued a certificate in entrepreneurial management (CEM). The call came with one instruction, a theme, and supporting contact and that was it. She had asked me to gather women and inspire them in honour of the international women’s day, which coincidentally had the theme: INSPIRING CHANGE.
So, on March 8, I decided to pay it forward and with Faith and Courage I dared to take a step towards this mission of inspiring and driving change, transforming businesses and making a significant impact in the lives of women in my community. Less than five months later, in March to be precise, we hosted our very first International women’s day conference, Tagged: INSPIRING CHANGE.
We had Kemi Adetiba, and Weird Mc as our Girl Talk panellists and our guest speaker Lady, Sandra Agbuebor-Ekperuoh (Lady Mechanic) who was represented by a team of lady mechanics, came to train the women in attendance on how to replace a bad tire with a spare. I still remember how excited I was to see women and a few men walk into the hall of Our Place, off Toyin street, Ikeja.Lagos. My faith finally was tangible and visible.
Today, the theme ‘INSPIRING CHANGE’ has become a notable brand and a movement that deliberately enhances knowledge and educates women for an equal and purposeful future with a focus on nation-building.
You have successfully done it for 10 years now, what were the challenges you faced when you first started and how were you able to overcome them?
My experience at the maiden edition was challenging. I had to handle several tasks by myself while also preparing to speak and moderate the lineup of sessions at the conference. It demanded my time and resources. I even lost my voice and broke my fancy nail while setting up the hall in the early hours of the morning of the event.
I didn’t know if I was going about it the right way, I wasn’t even sure at that time if I would like to continue on this mission but, I did it. Knowing that courage isn’t necessarily the absence of fear but the bravery to rise above it and not give up despite the storm. That was exactly the topic of my keynote address to the audience that morning – COURAGE.
In 2015, we doubled the faith and courage to host yet another tagged “MAKE IT HAPPEN” with an impressive lineup of Guest speakers and Panelists. And we have continued to make it every year.You see, life has a way of naturally throwing some challenges at you but, with Faith and courage, if you keep taking one step at a time and do not give up while navigating towards the tide, you will eventually reach the finish line.
How is your foundation financed?
I thank God almighty for the help I received from my husband Pastor David Adeoye, the Royalty Christian Centre workers and church family, close family members and friends who believed in the vision. Through them we were able to fully pay for the total cost of the events, and empower multiple women in business with work tools, cash grants and free capacity building offers to name a few, year in and out. After several proposals, emails and calls, in 2016, we started attracting corporate sponsorship from notable brands like Zenith Bank, Life page Group, Helen Mo Merchant and other notable SME’S whose visions for women empowerment aligned with ours.
The theme for this year’s event is ‘EVOLVE’ what inspired that? And what should we expect?
Unlike the first theme that was controlled by the international women’s day theme for that year, the past 8 Editions have stood out with divinely inspired themes that address the timely needs of today’s women. Regularly, we have heard attendees say, the theme speaks to them and stirs up an internal curiosity and thirst for success even before they attend the conference and when they do attend, the richness of the various sessions creates a long lasting impact. This year, we have a very interesting lineup of speakers from our keynote speaker; Tara Fela- Durotoye, David Adeoye, Funke Felix-Adejumo, Bimbo Ademoye, Doyin Ogunmefun, Prof. Helen Paul and of course me, as the convener. It is taking place this Saturday the 25th of March 2023.
The focus of your Inspiring Change Conference is basically to enhance knowledge and educate the women folks, for an equal and purposeful future. What do you think are the central challenges regarding gender-related issues, both in the workplace and in the home? How might they be overcome?
One of the major challenges faced by today’s women in Africa is Patriarchy in almost every sector. The society and culture directly and indirectly affiliates power and position of leadership and governance to men while the women who dare to occupy such leadership positions are seen not only as ambitious but in conquest for something beyond the level of their abilities and calibre.
From the just concluded Nigerian general elections, we see a great margin of male dominated public office aspirants as compared to their female counterparts. Even the only female presidential aspirant openly shared the pain she felt after she learnt of her party chairman’s derogatory stand to file behind a man instead of a female qualified aspirant few days to the elections. Attitudes and mentality like this, towards qualified women who can competently hold leadership positions in public and private sectors, needs to stop.
I commend the large number of women leaders globally, who have over the years taken giant strides to close these obvious inequality gaps and I celebrate all our leading ladies in Africa who are breaking glass ceilings and creating spaces for a lineage of competent women in industries dominated by men. We however need to keep demanding an end to the discrimination against women and relegation of our competence to only domestic spheres. That is why the Inspiring Change Initiative will continue her mission to deliberately impact knowledge, mentor, educate and build the knowledge bank and confidence of our women folks for an equal and purposeful future.
With the editions you have done so far, would you say the goal for which the foundation was set up has been achieved?
To the glory of God, we have recorded tremendous, life changing business and career successes and the results of the impactful week-long sessions speak for itself. Many who were lost, confused and not sure of how to navigate their success journey in business, career and ministry have testified to gaining knowledge, clarity, a sense of direction and of course drawing strength and inspiration from the life lessons shared on the Inspiring Change platform by myself and our various speakers.
One of such attendees is Oluwatemilorun Adeola of Oretide foods, who attended the program with no idea of what to do, but left with the urge to pay rapt attention to what she currently had in her hand which was only a paint bowl of crayfish worth N2500. Today, in less than 5 years of attending the Inspiring Change Conference, Oluwatemilorun has evolved to become a food packaging expert at Oretide foods, shipping and exporting container loads of raw African spices and foods across the shores of Africa, into Canada, UK and the United States. This is one out of many women who have scaled in their businesses and career.
Our social community impact tagged #InspiringChangedeliDerately, has also contributed a great deal to the sustainable development of women and girls in Agege. We have hosted Mentor Meets Mentee Programs, Entrepreneurial Advancement Trainings for Market Women and the on-going Inspiring Change School Tour which is a mission to eradicate broken dreams and abandoned visions in the life of our secondary school students.
Most of those we interacted with and paired up with mentors are now able to see great possibilities and are inspired to dare career paths they never knew existed. There is definitely a shift and no position is too high for them as girls if they put in the work and remain focused. So far, we have visited 12 schools and we look forward to more in the following weeks as we celebrate our 10th year anniversary.
Growing up as a teenager, what informed your career path and how did you deviate from it?
As a teenager, I only wanted to be a banker and I did achieve that goal and served in the banking industry for about a decade. However, on the quest to be more and all God has destined me to be, I evolved into becoming all that I am today. Notable of which is my office as the First Lady of Royalty Christian Centre, Lagos where God is grooming His people for greatness.
As one with a keen interest in womens’ welfare, what advice would you give to women, especially with the situation of things in the country?
Women need to rise up and be more, enough to play the weaker vessel card. Go out there and OCCUPY the land with businesses you have been commissioned to set up, DOMINATE and have a commanding influence in the market space and in the kingdom, LEAD the way effectively with a heart willing to serve, guide, and pilot as an excellent example for the next generation, don’t forget to INSPIRE others with the same ability by sharing your results, you must stimulate and motivate a lineage of goal getters too AND REIGN with Competence, Character, Charisma and GOD’S Covering. If I Can, You CAN Too. I believe in you.
What is your eventual dream for your foundation?
By the grace of God, we plan to set up a knowledge centre that will cater to the increasing need of globalized education in information for young entrepreneurs. A go to place for programs that will inform budding entrepreneurs and young talents about how to manage their talents, drive STEM driven innovations and pitch it for exportation and investors.
Many budding entrepreneurs today still face the problem of Market Entry and Idea Funding; we hope to build an institution that will fill that gap.
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